I’ve said it before: the jerk can be the most fun lift to perform in the gym. If you’re good at it, you can move a ton of weight seemingly effortlessly. If you’re not good at it, it can be the most frustrating part of your training. Sometimes fixing a problem in a lift is about finding the right cue.
Everyone thinks differently and might need to be taught differently. Here are a list of cues that have helped either myself or one (or many) of our athletes improve their jerk.
Cues referring to the Dip and Drive:
Drop your butt between your heels
Shoulders stay on top of hips as you dip and drive
Weight distribution should be even (between the toes and heels) in the foot throughout the whole lift
Keep the weight distribution even as you drive up (ie. Don’t shift to your toes when it comes time to produce power)
Shorten the dip and drive
Be more aggressive on the drive
Make the dip and drive smoother (being jerky on the dip can lead to the bar leaving the shoulders and crashing when transitioning to the drive)
Where the bar starts (before the dip) and ends (the end of the drive) should be the same position in space
Finish the drive
Relax your arms
All of these have to do with either timing, positioning or movement speed/aggressiveness. Just like in the snatch or clean, if you’re out of position in a previous part of the lift (in the case of the jerk, the dip and drive), the end result is going to be flawed.
The main takeaways are that your dip and drive is vertical, you don’t shift forward when it comes time to produce power and the dip and drive is of proper depth and speed.
A proper dip and drive will set you up for a proper catch. That doesn't mean that a flawless dip and drive will lead to a flawless catch though. There are still things that can go wrong and things that need cued. Here are some cues that I have used in the past.
Cues referring to the split and catch:
Tight/aggressive on the catch
Lockout of arms should time up with tightening of core and legs
Toes should be pointed inwards or at the very least, forwards
Get your head through
Step out in front
Punch up when you catch
Keep your feet closer to the ground (don’t jump and let your feet get too far away from the ground)
Front shin should be vertical
Flex the knee of the back leg (dependent on lifter)
Straighten the knee (but not lock) of the back leg (dependent on lifter)
All of these cues have to do with the timing of ‘’getting everything tight’’ when you catch the bar, putting your body in a position that you can successfully catch the bar and making sure your split puts you in a position to both get under the bar quickly and be strong enough to hold a heavy weight overhead.
In terms of a split, I usually have a beginner lifter get down on one knee with their front foot in the split being the knee that’s up. I have them get into a 90/90 position (90 degrees hips, 90 degrees knees) with about a foot's width between feet (meaning their feet aren’t in line with each other).
From there I have the lifter stand up. This is what we use as a starting point for their split. Based on the individual and what feels good, we might lengthen, shorten or widen the split from this point.
Remember that most of the time, problems with the jerk originate from problems with the dip and drive. It’s much easier to make a lift if the dip and drive is correct. This puts the bar in the correct and most efficient position to make a catch.
I would suggest that you first take a look at your dip and drive then analyze the catch, rather than the other way around. If you find a problem with the dip and drive, find a cue that works for you and make the necessary adjustments. Once you’ve addressed any problems in the dip and drive, analyze the catch, identify problems and find a cue that works well for you.
The jerk is an amazingly fast and aggressive movement that combines precision and strength when performed correctly. It can be a long process to fix the jerk, but remember that everyone thinks and interprets things differently. Find a cue or way of thinking about what you need to do to fix your problem and get to lifting bigger weights!